Although a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club, one of the lesser known members of the group is the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. This uniquely coated and wonderfully tempered dog is ideal for an active family, although like all breeds within the sporting group it may not be perfect match for everyone.
The history of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon actually goes back to the 15th century when landowners and the wealthy in Europe began hunting upland game birds, waterfowl and small mammals as sport. These early dogs were not completely like the modern breed, however there are some definite similarities in written descriptions, both in temperament, hunting abilities and physical characteristics.
The Netherlands is actually the country that the breed was first developed in. A Dutch landowner's son by the name of Eduard Karel Korthals wanted to create the perfect dog for hunting. His criteria included a dog that would stay within gun range of a hunter on foot, a dog that would point, as well as a dog that would retrieve both in water and on land. He also wanted a dog that would be willing to go into the dense woods of the Netherlands and be able to bring out downed game and birds without any hesitation.
The exact cross of breeds used to create the modern Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is not exactly clear, and different researchers and breeders have slightly different opinion. Most agree that an early type of dog known as a Griffon Hound, which may have been crossed with the ancestors of the modern English Pointer, is likely the foundation of the breed. The German Shorthaired Pointer may have also been including in the cross, or could have been an alternative to the English Pointer. Other sources claim that there are a variety of breeds including the Barbet, which is a French hunting dog that is almost extinct today. The Barbet may have been crossed with setters, pointers, spaniels and even the Otterhound to result in the modern breed.
To somewhat confuse the issue the term "griffon" has historically been used to describe a type of dog, similar to the general terms of pointer, setter or retriever. Therefore it is easy to see how the general descriptor of griffon may be easily confused with the breed name of Griffon. All dogs that are categorized as griffon types are hardy, intelligent, energetic and considered to be exceptional hunting dogs both on land and in water.
Since many of these breeds share a common general physical description as well as natural hunting traits, there is credibility to almost any of these breeds or their ancestors being used in the development of the early Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. However it is well documented that Mr. Korthals used an inbreeding program to highlight the desirable traits of the breed he was striving to create. The foundation stock of the breed , considered to be the offspring of three generations of breeding, are sometimes known as Korthals' Griffons, had different coat types ranging from wiry to woolly or short.
Mr. Korthals was truly dedicated to expanding the breed, and he developed a very significant kennel. Although there were many setbacks he did show the dogs and use them in hunting, where they quickly became very popular. Later in life he moved his kennel from the Netherlands to Germany, where the breed again proved to be very popular as a hunting dog for hunters on foot. Although Mr. Korthals died at the early age of 44, breeders in both Germany and the Netherlands continued to selectively breed the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon into the dog seen today.
The first Wirehaired Pointing Griffon was brought to the USA in 1887. The breed continues to have a wiry and smooth combination double coat combined with the distinctive beard, moustache and very long and full eyebrows. Colors include a solid chestnut, silver, steel or silver with either roan or chestnut colorations. It is larger in size, maturing at about 50-60 pounds. They have a hunting dog appearance with a well-muscled and athletic body, alert, intelligent expression and the most interesting brown to yellow elliptical shaped eyes.
The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is very active and does not do well in an apartment. These dogs need to be outside on a regular basis but they should not be expected to be completely outside or kennel dogs. The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon loves to be with the family and is highly affectionate and loving. They are outstanding family dogs and have almost endless patience with children and other animals, provided they are properly trained and socialized.
Not all Wirehaired Pointing Griffon are friendly with strangers and they may be rather aloof or even somewhat prone to barking if new people are around. Routine socialization, exercise and obedience work tends to decrease and minimize this temperament trait. Field lines or those bred and used more for hunting are often more high strung and excitable than the show lines, which may be more suited as companion pets.
Since the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon does have a huge need for exercise they are not recommended for a family that leads a sedate life. They are also not suited for very hot climates as their hair is thick and dense. The wiry part of the coat, which may be heavy or light, depending on the dog, does not shed. This wiry coat needs to be routinely stripped to remove dead hair and promote new hair growth. The woollier undercoat will shed, often very heavily, especially in the spring season.
Overall the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon requires little in the way of specialized training to be an excellent hunting companion. In addition they also are very easy to obedience train, however they will go through a bit of a stubborn period right around their first year. Consistent, positive training is very effective in working with these dogs.
Since the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is less common than many of the hunting dogs there are few genetic health concerns with the breed. Typically the most common issue that is seen within the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed is hip dysplasia, which can be prevented by testing both parents before breeding.